Education commissioner Pam Stewart has provided much-needed calm in Florida’s education universe. Rick Scott probably wishes he had her in place all along instead of ideologues Gerard Robinson and Tony Bennett. But Scott would probably admit that those were the kind of guys he wanted when he was elected in 2010. And he was smitten by the carefully crafted Michelle Rhee story and had completely bought in to her entire gambit.
I really think Scott began to soften when he started meeting actual teachers around the state and discovered they weren’t the union hacks he was lead to believe they were by the education reform hacks he’d surrounded himself with. But Scott carries baggage loaded down with the Rhee-inspired teacher evaluation system, SB 736. I’ll bet he’s realized by now that the only people who really wanted the darn thing were Florida’s republican legislators who had been instructed to want it by Jeb Bush.
So here we are with the debate on Common Core standards. While this is occurring on Scott’s watch, he shouldn’t the only one taking heat. It was Charlie Crist who committed Florida to them when “we won” a Race to the Top grant from the Obama administration. Crist is attempting to make political hay with Core right now by hammering Scott for not just diving in head first. Fortunately for Florida, Scott isn’t, and he has Pam Stewart on point. She will be announcing a series of changes this week. Let’s hope they are real changes.
But not all of Florida’s republican legislators are drinking the Jeb Bush kool-aid on Core. Four republican legislators in the House have sponsored HB 25, a bill which would prohibit the implementation of Core. Bill Cotterell reports in the Florida Current that 23 county republican caucuses adopted resolutions that oppose Core.
Many people feel that Stewart will merely be introducing Core Lite. That won’t fly with anyone and it will trigger a battle over HB 25. It will be sure to pick up democrat support and maybe even co-sponsors. Stewart has earned trust on both sides of the aisle, but it won’t be enough to save Scott from political fall-out in an election year if Stewart’s changes aren’t real.